It’s been…an interesting few months. An understatement if there ever was one. And for those of us who love traveling—or just need to for various reasons—a big question is what it’s like flying after COVID-19. I recently (mid-June) took my first domestic flights since everything was basically shut down in March, and wanted to share what you might be expecting.
What I can’t (and won’t) tell you is whether traveling is “safe”. That’s for you to decide. I’m just sharing what my experience was like, to help you know what to expect and figure out what works for YOU. This post mostly covers flying with Delta in mid-June, but I’ve updated it for my late June American flights as well.
Overall I found the experience of flying after COVID to be pretty quiet and calm…much less insane than pre-coronavirus travel (when it’s more crowded and thereby crazier). The biggest thing I hated was wearing a mask on the plane, as it gave me anxiety because I felt like I couldn’t breathe well at all (that’s true of wearing masks anywhere for me for more than a few minutes).
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At the airport
I flew from both Louisville (Kentucky) and Atlanta (Georgia), so experienced both a small and a huge airport. Masks weren’t required in either airport, and seemed about 50/50 on people wearing them. When I flew through Charlotte in late June, masks were required at the airport due to state regulations.
In both cases, security was pretty fast because there just aren’t that many people. I do have TSA Pre-Check, which smooths things out a bit. They have spots to remind you to stay 6-ish feet back from people in line in security. People were pretty chill and respectful of people’s space in general.
A lot of shops in the airport aren’t open, or are maintaining much shorter hours than normal. In Atlanta it did look a little more normal since I flew in midday and it’s such a major airport. Be prepared for slower service at restaurants and coffee shops, as they may have extra steps and restrictions and fewer staff than normal.
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At the gate
I was flying Delta, and the boarding process was pretty smooth. Other than first class and people with kids, they boarded starting with the back of the plane. The gate area was pretty quiet, everyone maintaining distance and just doing their own thing.
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On the plane
The planes I was on were pretty full except the middle seats were kept empty (on Delta). One of the bigger changes in-flight that you’ll experience flying after COVID is that rather than a typical beverage service, the flight attendants came through and gave us pre-packed baggies with a small bottle of water and a couple snacks. We were also given little Purell wipes when we boarded.
When I flew American a couple weeks later, they do not do ANY drink or snack service so you will need to bring anything yourself. The planes were mostly full as well (smaller 2-and-2 configuration, no middle seats).
Delta requires you to wear a mask while on the plane…this makes drinking and eating pretty challenging, though. I had mine removed for about half of each of my (50-minute) flights to drink my coffee and eat snacks, and no one hassled me…and others did as well. It felt like some flight attendants were going to be more strict about it during the flight than others.
The airlines themselves have provided a lot of information about their new cleaning procedures and air circulation process, if that’s something that concerns you. I know Delta’s is pretty intense.
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The Delta lounge
A small note, but since I got to the airport in Atlanta a little early for my flight and was coming off a super late night, I needed a little quiet and pick-me-up. Many of the airline lounges are closed right now (mid-June 2020) but Atlanta did have a couple Delta ones open. I was able to spend half an hour with some coffee, pre-packaged food (no regular buffet, more like cereal packets, oatmeal packets, packaged danishes, etc.), and quiet before heading to my gate.
What other questions do you have about flying after COVID-19?
Hopefully this gives you a little bit of detail on what flying after coronavirus may be like whenever you decide to undertake it. For me, I felt completely comfortable with the exception of wearing a mask which I truly loathe. But for shorter flights it is totally doable to be able to get out and go places again.
As I mentioned at the outset though, I’ve got some more flights coming up in the coming weeks, so hit me up with other questions and I’ll do my best to answer them!
U.S. domestic trips worth the flight hassle:
- An Epic Oregon Coast Roadtrip
- Where to Eat & Drink in Chicago
- An Amazing Southern Utah Roadtrip: Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks
- Exploring Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park
- 10 Things You Have to Do on a Weekend Trip to Asheville, NC
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